What is the difference between chinuch and learning? Are they a package deal or
can they be separated? How do you build a bridge between intellectual awareness
and emotional awareness and why is it important to do so?
commonly make a distinction between limud (learning) and chinuch
(education). Learning is the channel that enables you to expand your intellect,
develop your understanding, and enrich your store of concepts. Chinuch,
on the other hand, is more connected to values. We are mechanech children
to mitzvos, midos, and maasim tovim (good deeds). When we
talk about learning, we don’t discuss chinuch, and when we’re involved in
chinuch we don’t discuss limud.
is that it just doesn’t work that way. If you want to succeed in the field of
teaching, you cannot separate limud and chinuch. There’s a
connection, or more precisely, a bridge that connects the domain of chinuch
with the domain of limud.
we separate chinuch from limud is, perhaps, due to the fact that
learning is an intellectual activity, whereas chinuch is directed at the
emotions. The truth, however, is that the intellect and the emotions operate in
tandem and are symbiotic in nature.
want to explain to a small child, who still does not have all the tools needed
for moral judgment, why a certain deed is a mitzva or is permissible
while a different deed is forbidden or unnecessary, you have to address both the
child’s intellect as well as his emotions. You must explain things to him so
that he understands them to the point that they penetrate and impact on his
emotions. If we direct ourselves to merely one domain, his understanding will be
lacking, because the intellect and the emotions complement one another.
When we try
to get a child to do what’s right by reaching out to his emotions, we have to
check and see whether he also understands what we said on an intellectual level.
If he didn’t get it, because all we said was, “You can’t do that!” or even,
“Hashem doesn’t let!” without providing him with the means to logically
comprehend what we said, then he will not internalize our message on an
emotional level either. He’ll continue to fume, and to think, ‘Why can’t I do
this? They just forbid things without giving a reason!’ But if we explain the
prohibition in a way that can be understood rationally, the child will also
absorb the message emotionally.
How do we
explain why the teacher forbids something? We draw a parallel from something
familiar to the child from his everyday life, and we say to him, “At home Tatte
is the one in charge, right? How come? Because he’s the adult who looks after
the family welfare. When Tatte says something is forbidden, we must accept it
even if we don’t understand why it’s forbidden, because we know that we can rely
on him. He seeks only our good.
“The same is
true of your teacher. He is responsible for his students. He is the father of
the class. The teacher is concerned about his students and seeks their welfare,
so when he forbids something, the students must accept what he says regardless
of whether they understand the reason. When they grow older, they will surely
see that the teacher was right.”
You can also
mention that, when learning Torah, what their teacher says is actually what
Hashem commanded. The teacher is only showing his young students the way to
teaching a child, if we don’t address his intellect, he won’t really accept what
we say. He listens to what the teacher says anyway because he has no other
choice, but it’s not because it’s clear to him why the matter is forbidden;
rather, it’s because at the moment, he is afraid of the teacher. The moment the
fear goes away, the teacher’s command will dissipate. Then we miss our main
objective, i.e., the chinuch of the child.
If, on the
other hand, we explain to our children the instructions that we give them, then
the instructions will be accepted and internalized by them, so that complying
will have nothing to do with fear of the teacher but with the fact that Hashem
has thus commanded us and we must always listen to Him. The result of this small
investment is long-term, true, internalized chinuch. In addition, we
manage to instill a very important value, that the teacher is someone to
respect. He knows what’s he’s doing and why, and he is the one who establishes
for the young child how to behave and what to do. That’s why it’s important
not to say, “That’s the way it is and that’s the way it has to be!” Rather,
we should say, “That’s what the teacher says and so that’s how it has to be.”
We need to
apply this principle in other instances, as well. For example, when a small
child hits another boy, our usual, spontaneous reaction is, “You’re not allowed
to hit!” We say this without explaining to the child why it’s forbidden to hit.
The intellectual understanding is missing and the child doesn’t understand why
he cannot hit. That means that we did not successfully educate the child.
On the other
hand, if we explain, “You shouldn’t hit him because it causes him pain, and we
mustn’t cause another Jew pain,” the child understands why we told him not to
hit. This understanding, that it is forbidden to cause another Jew pain, will
remain with him. As he grows older, it will grow along with him. An older child
will know that he may not cause another child harm, and later on he will grow to
understand that this doesn’t only refer to physical damage but also to emotional
damage, such as embarrassing someone. At an even older age he will come to
understand that sneering at someone or hinting about someone in any other
negative, potentially harmful way is forbidden.
We know many
stories about gedolei Yisroel who were extremely careful not to cause
pain to another Jew, and kept a great distance from even a suspicion of
wrongdoing. How did they attain this level? By being educated at a very young
age and internalizing the principle that we may not cause harm to another Jew.
teach, we also have to try to bridge the intellect and the emotions. We are
accustomed to teaching very young children very lofty concepts: the story of
Creation, the splitting of the sea etc. which are way beyond their intellect. If
our intentions are to give them a nice vocabulary, to teach them how to speak
properly, and to make them aware of certain concepts, the Chumash is
certainly not the proper tool. There are excellent textbooks for just these
role of the Chumash is to train the G-dly soul within every Jew to
understand lofty ideas and concepts. That is precisely what we do when we teach
a young child the words of the Chumash, even when at this stage he
doesn’t grasp the full significance of these concepts. Actually, there is no age
at which we can say, “Now we can get down to fully understanding and grasping
the Torah’s concepts.” As much as we think we understand, there will always
remain levels that are higher than our limited intellect. Nevertheless, we
continue learning the parshiyos of Chumash as holy work that is
entirely about matters of the highest order.
teach a young child Chumash in the same manner that we ourselves learn Chumash.
Our intention is not to use the Chumash as a tool for teaching proper sentence
structure, or to enrich the child’s vocabulary. If we approach it in that way we
won’t achieve the real aim, which is to help him progress to a higher, more
spiritual way of thinking.
words of the Chumash we inculcate in a child, step by step, lofty
concepts of Judaism, the existence of Hashem and His oneness, Divine providence,
emuna in the Creator of the world, etc. This is also the source of the
custom of starting the child’s Chumash education with VaYikra, the most
difficult of the Torah’s volumes. We want to, “let the pure ones come and be
involved in taharos.” This strengthens our understanding that learning is
not just an intellectual matter, but must also arouse the emotions.